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Don't Be a Sucker

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Don't Be a Sucker

Published 1947

Admonishes Americans that they will lose their country if they let fanaticism and hatred turn them into "suckers." "Let's forget about 'we' and 'they' -- let's think about us!" In the context of the emerging Cold War, this film appears paradoxical.

Run time 17:21
Producer U.S. War Department
Sponsor U.S. War Department
Audio/Visual Sd, B&W


Like The House I Live In, this film warns that Americans will lose their country if they let themselves be turned into "suckers" by the forces of fanaticism and hatred. This thesis is rendered more powerful by the ever-present example of Nazi Germany, whose capsule history is dramatized as part of this film. There's a great deal of good sense in this film and more than a bit of wartime populism: "Let's not think about 'we' and 'they.' Let's think about 'us'!"]
It's interesting to think of this film in the light of Cold War anti-Communist politics, which really came into their own in the year this film was made. Were the witch-hunting politicians and citizens of the late Forties and early Fifties protecting the people, or were they themselves acting like "suckers?"

Ken Smith sez: Everyone has something that can be taken away, explains the narrator of this film, and so does average everyman "sucker" Mike -- he stands to lose "America."
Mike watches idly while a street corner soapbox orator rants against Negroes, "alien foreigners" and Catholics. Mike thinks this is pretty agreeable, until the rabble-rouser adds "freemasons" to his list. Hey, wait a second, Mike says, I'm a freemason. Over wanders an elderly man with a Hungarian accent (so he says) who proceeds to set dizzy Mike straight.
The Hungarian reminds Mike that Germany was "a nation of suckers" who allowed "crazy people; stupid fanatics" to use prejudice to "cripple the nation." "We must guard everyone's liberties, or we can lose our own," he declares. "Let's not be suckers! Let's be selfish about it; let's not think about 'we' and 'they'. Let's think about 'us'!"
Good direction and an obviously decent budget make this film very watchable, and it's interesting to hear the old man appeal to our "good, hard, common sense" in that Bugs Bunny/blue-collar worker colloquial slang that was the accepted voice of Average Joe in postwar America. "America is minorities," the old man proclaims, "and that means you and me!" This populist New Deal view would disappear as quickly as evil German references in the Republican 1950s.



Reviewer: MickMiller - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 24, 2016
Subject: Still applies today
According to IMDB, this short was widely released in 1943, free to the theater exhibitors, and reissued in 1947 to support integration in the armed forces then just under way. Plain language is used to make powerful, timeless arguments for civil rights. Saw it long ago in high school, but not again until now. Over many years, this worthy short rang in my head whenever I saw a politician use prejudice to gain favor.

It is not propaganda. To the contrary, the movie teaches how to recognize and reject propaganda, as was used by the Nazis to promote to bigotry and intimidation. It shows how prejudice can be used to divide the population to gain power. Far more significantly, it then shows how such tactics are defanged by friendly persuasion; that protection of liberty is a unifying and practical way to live peacefully (thanks to the Hungarian Professor).

To counter errors in some of the previous reviews: The Nazis did indeed persecute Freemasons. They were one of Hitler's primary scapegoats in Mein Kampf. Within a few months of him becoming Chancellor, all German Masonic Lodges were disbanded, their property confiscated, and their members prohibited from public service. Hitler understood that "on the level" meetings held in secret was a way for Jews to overcome prejudice and counter their loss of civil rights. Thus, Lodges provided connections that enabled the disparate groups to unite, which as the movie points out, was a threat to Nazi domination. Masons were sent to concentration camps as political prisoners. It is estimated that between 80,000 and 200,000 Masons were targeted and killed during the war.

More information at
Reviewer: jeselmira - favoritefavoritefavorite - October 3, 2010
Subject: Fine example of post-war American propaganda.
Decent production for a short film. It plays on cheap stereotypes in the name of anti-discrimination in a way that verges on funny. (Like most war department films touching on Nazism, it points out the Goering was fat. This was apparently very, very significant at the time. The Catholic, of course, wears a conspicuous medallion, because, well, that's what those Catholics do, you know.)

The film's hypothesis, that Nazism gained power by breaking down much of society into little pieces, whithered on the spot and rendered inert by their criticism, assumes that every group attacked by the Nazis could not work with other outcast groups to form an opposition. There is nothing particularly true about the idea. It is basically ahistorical, a myth invented by the filmmakers to suit their incidental agenda.

In fact, claiming to be the alternative to both the socialists and the nationalists, the Nazis tried to put together a package of (sometimes inconsistent) promises to appeal to a large swath of German society and unite them behind a single upstart party in a most unlikely way. They vilified certain minorities and played to popular prejudices NOT because the minorities were capable of strong opposition (this was only true of the Catholic Church), but merely to exploit a preexisting list of a common enemies that would tend to unify the country by scapegoating the corrupting "others" lurking within Germany society. After the humiliation of Versailles and economic cataclysm, the German People needed scapegoats to recover their pride. Hitler saw this and used this.

This film, however, paints a different picture to serve its message that everyone is a minority and that America's strength is in diversity and further that (and this is the only powerful and mature notion in the film) tolerance is in everybody's self-interest.

What really bears remembering is that this film was produced by literally the same propagandists who spooled miles and miles of preposterously racist and dehumanizing anti-Japanese films. Same brainwashing, new ideological flavor of the moment. This film's main value today is in seeing how it was calculated to manipulate the viewer through cheap appeals to prejudice and fear.
Reviewer: donwert - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 7, 2010
Subject: Did They Listen?
Excellent film produced by the War Dept. presumably for viewing by the armed forces just after the end of WW II warning about bigotry
and using the history of Nazi Germany as the object lesson for what can happen if prejudice is left unchecked. I suspect this kind of film would have excited Joe McCarthy's suspicions---perhaps it did. What's sad is the realization that many of the Tea Partiers of today and other right-wing extremists would probably find this film to be dangerous and subversive--witness their common references to our "Kenyen" president...
Reviewer: earthquakepills - favoritefavoritefavorite - September 14, 2009
Subject: (observation)
The narrator sounds like Lloyd Nolan
Reviewer: pbriggsiam - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 20, 2007
Subject: Very timely - Paul Craig Roberts interview with Thom Hartman
Combine this video with the the 7/19/2007 interview by Thom Hartman of Paul Craig Roberts. We have to get involved and change the direction of our country!
Reviewer: surfvh - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 13, 2007
Subject: Another film about the responsibilities of citizenship
Some other examples are:

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

Enemy Of The State

What are your favorites?
Reviewer: ERD - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 6, 2006
Subject: Excellent film showing the spread of prejudisim,
The film is well done, and still holds true today.
Reviewer: Struwwel - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - February 6, 2006
Subject: The Secret Connection btw Prejudice & Fascism
This is a film made in 1947 to put a stop to racism in the military by simply revealing the connection between prejudice and fascism. Prejudice is a con game used to gain power by people who want to destroy freedom (in the name of freedom!).

In the end, we are told, "This film will not be shown to the general public without permission from the War Department," indicating that the U.S. government felt this information should only be given out on a need-to-know basis FOR SOME REASON.

An important film to see if you're interested in waking yourself up out of "the matrix," haha.
Reviewer: c.d. - favoritefavoritefavorite - September 18, 2005
Subject: It's a poorly put together movie with good intentions
"A fairly standard 'watch out for the Nazis' film stopped cold in it's tracks with the warning that the right to be a Freemason would suffer. A man listens to a soapbox lecturer and agrees what the man has to say about negroes and foreigners, but draws the line at the hatred of Freemasons.. after all he's one himself! (I HOWLED at this). A older Hungarian sees this man and sees this as an excellent oppurtunity to ramble on (and on) about how Nazi Germany did the same thing, restricting everyone from Roamn Catholics and the jews (and the Freemasons!) movenments. Other then the brief bits of unintentional comedy, this is pretty standard."

As hard as it is to believe Freemasons were persecuted by Nazi's as were the Boy Scouts.

granted Hitler never had them killed in mass but Masons were seen as Jew Sympathizers and Nazi's hated the Scouts because they fought back in Poland.

I think is the source of my info.
Reviewer: nightwatchdog - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 29, 2005
Subject: What's "old" is "new" again.
Hate Arabs anyone ? Do you think their are "evildooers" out there ready to strike you down in mid step ? Anybody you know who goes around preaching hatred against queers or liberals perhaps ? Have you ever heard anyone in or near the goverment preach absoloute nonsence against this group or that when all the while making political hay on the issue ?

Do you know anyone who still supports an official lie long after it's totally discredited ? you...?'s a nice little movie that time hasn't rendered a relic of the's message is as timeless as todays headlines. Perhaps a few will find rationality after a viewing of it here....we can certainly pray that they do.

Reviewer: moderator - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 20, 2004
Subject: Beautiful
I rare look at positive propoganda; all of it so very true! The scene with the professor was particularly moving.
Reviewer: trafalgar - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 14, 2004
Subject: Excellent
I was expecting another Prelinger laff riot, but I became engrossed in this eloquent argument against discrimination, which stresses how the powers that be divide the population in order to conquer it. Sadly enough, it's even more relevant today.
Sure, you can quibble with some details, but the thesis is right on the nose, and the wise old Hungarian man gives a top-notch performance.
Beat Bush in '04!
Reviewer: rsmith02 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 14, 2003
Subject: desegregation
The tone of this film puzzled me until the end. It preached tolerance, stressed that America was a nation of minorities, disavowed any differences in ability based on race, and in short would be considered liberal today and quite radical in 1947.

I was very suprised to see the final screen, where the movie said it was produced by the War Office and not to be shown to the general public. Based on this, I take this film not to be a relic of New Deal liberalism, but to be part of Harry Truman's efforts to desegregate the armed forces, which was as ahead of its time as this film. This makes sense, because a film like this would not have been tolerated in the segregated south, and would have been rejected by anti-semites (a very mainstream point of view even for the educated). The unusual perspective of this film makes it a fascinating attack on mid-century attitudes on the eve of civil rights and the cold war.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavorite - April 21, 2003
Subject: Oh No! Freemasons!
A fairly standard 'watch out for the Nazis' film stopped cold in it's tracks with the warning that the right to be a Freemason would suffer. A man listens to a soapbox lecturer and agrees what the man has to say about negroes and foreigners, but draws the line at the hatred of Freemasons.. after all he's one himself! (I HOWLED at this). A older Hungarian sees this man and sees this as an excellent oppurtunity to ramble on (and on) about how Nazi Germany did the same thing, restricting everyone from Roamn Catholics and the jews (and the Freemasons!) movenments. Other then the brief bits of unintentional comedy, this is pretty standard.
Reviewer: mmm887 - favoritefavoritefavorite - January 19, 2003
Subject: Not as flawed as suggests
M, dude, you need to do more research on WWII Nazi Germany. I appreciate your comments. They're helpful. But there is more accuracy in the film than you suggest. Catholics, gypsies, homosexuals and others were persecuted as well as Jews. That Jews were the largest group and most noticably targetted and in greatest number does not change that. In fact, it's an unfortunate fact that we limit our "recollection" of the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Nazis to what they did to the Jews. We can lose valuable lessons by thinking that it was one particular group rather than a culture of elitism and disdain for diversity that contributed to the tragedies of the time.
Reviewer: - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 23, 2002
Subject: Unity, Nazi Germany and Suckers
Apeals to the Americans to feel as one in opposition to discriminate minorities which would lead to threaten everyone, because everyone is a minority.

So far so good, the movie describes Nazi Germany in a distorted view:
1. The Nazis were a minority, which took the power by dividing the rest (majority) of the people.
2. The Catholic Church is seen as prosecuted as well as the Jews (for example!).

First, one can say that the Nazis haven't been a minority seducing everybody (or dividing all people). The majority of the people went along with the nazis! They did nothing, they participated! They are fully blamable for also being Nazis.

The second is that the Catholic church was not that affected by the Government, they even sacrificed the weapons of the military (political power often goes along with considering religous elements).

Nice film to see how people are being manipulated with right arguments, as well as changed historical facts.
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